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Moscow metro to train first female drivers

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Moscow (AFP)

The Moscow subway system will train women to run trains next year, following labour law changes that opens up several professions to them.

The sprawling metro system, built in the Soviet era as a Communist showpiece, has "formed the first group of female driver trainees" who are to begin training in February, the Moscow city hall said in a statement.

Metro drivers have historically been men because the activity has been on the government's list of jobs deemed harmful for women's health.

The justification that it is dangerous to be underground for long periods has been criticised as hypocritical however, because the metro employs women as cleaners, cashiers and escalator monitors who earn much smaller salaries while also being stuck underground.

In September, a Labour Ministry decree slashed the number of exclusively male professions from 456 to around 100.

The current list was approved in 2000 and bans women from mining and metalworking jobs, but also from positions as a bus driver, sailor, parachutist, auto mechanic, and even maker of wind instruments.

A new list that is to take effect in 2021 opens many of these to females.

The city hall statement said "expectations are very high" of female drivers in training, and noted that women had already driven metro trains during World War II, when they took on many traditionally male jobs.

Russian Railways, the country's railway monopoly, said it will also begin employing female train drivers in 2021.

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